A prayer for my BFF on the day she became a mom again

*** I don’t often write letters on the blog, especially more than one in a week. But, this was a big week and exceptions need to be made.  There are children to celebrate! Aunt Amber thanks you for understanding.***

Jesse,

Just a couple of days ago, we were at our favorite diner cracking jokes with our favorite waitresses, sipping coffee, and enjoying the ordinariness of a Wednesday morning together. Of course, this week it wasn’t ordinary because it was your due date and when you asked me to pray before we ate, I stuttered and stammered my way through asking God to bless the day. I wanted to say something profound and meaningful and chock full of things we’d remember later. Instead, I think I said, “We’re thankful for today. We lift Jesse and Baby up to You, and we pray for their safety and for only good things. Uh…thanks for this food. Amen.”

I’m convinced that in highly-pressured, emotionally-charged moments, I am exactly the last person who should be asked to pray out loud. For all my love of words, I can’t seem to come up with them when I want to say something important to God. I’m not above admitting that in my prayer life, publicly or privately, I rely on the intercession of the Holy Spirit a whole heck of a lot.

So, consider this a do-over prayer – the things I wish I had said to you and to God over eggs and toast a couple of days ago. Consider it a slowed-down, fuller explanation of the “only good things” I hoped for you then…and now for James, who is here with us and sure to catch on quickly that I’m not the cool aunt I pretend to be.  No, I am the aunt who sometimes stutters and often babbles and usually doesn’t know what she really means until she’s taken some time to write it down.

God, I pray that he loves me for that.

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God,

Today is momentous. You’ve delivered James in Your time, just as we knew You would, even though we sometimes worried and had to text each other Bible verses about waiting and trusting and having no fear. I feel like I should maybe apologize for that, but I think that’s the lapsing Baptist in me – the guilt that goes with being a person of little faith sometimes. I think You know that texting those Bible verses to each other was very much a very real act of faith, and that we believed the things the Word told us about peace coming from You, and that we were really grateful that those texts meant we were friends carrying for each other. Now, we are friends who get to celebrate together too. Thanks for that. We know that was You, making something good.

Because we know that good is Your thing. And Lord, today is so good.

James is here, and he is beautiful. He has this crazy full-head of hair just like Noah did, but he is already so his own person. I love that, and I love him, and I love You for making him and letting us be his people. What a gift! What a good gift!

I pray that we take really good care of it – of him. I know that You have him engraved in the palm of Your hand, just like you engraved Isaiah, just like You’ve engraved all of us. And I know in Your great wisdom that I so don’t understand, You trust us with James, but we’re human and prone to making messes in even the best of situations, so we’re going to need Your help. So, I’m asking for all of us – Don’t let any of us wander too far from the fold of Your friendship. Teach us to be kind. Equip us to be patient. Help us to be gracious. And show us how to lead with love.

We pray that James is a guy who has these qualities too – that he’s kind and patient, gracious and loving. We pray that he is a good friend, and that he makes good friends too. We pray that he is smart and discerning, that he is thoughtful and wise. We pray that he is comfortable in the skin You gave him, and that he learns early to rest his identity in You. We pray that his passions drive him into a deeper relationship with You and into relationships with people who will make him better. We pray that he has a soft way of moving in the world, that he is gentle with himself and gentle with others. We pray that he experiences darkness only to see the light of You there. We pray that he walks through the world wide awake. But maybe above all, we pray that he knows that he is tremendously loved in every step.

Because we know we are, Father, and we want James to know it too. Because it’s everything.

You are everything.

Amen.

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I figure it’s probably okay that didn’t come pouring out of me at the restaurant a couple of days ago. Now, I can see his face in my mind or feel the weight of him in my arms when I pray these things. I can pray from a different heart now than I did a couple of days ago, because my heart holds him now too, right alongside Noah and Abby and the rest of the family. For the rest of my life, I will always be grateful that you made me an aunt.

Even as I was writing this, Noah climbed up into my lap for a little while. He was happy to watch the cursor make letters across the page until he wanted my full attention. “Squeeze me!” he demanded, and for as long as he will do it, I will let him boss me around on this one. It’s what he says when he wants me to hug him until I almost take the breath out of him, what he says when he wants to turn around and hug me around the neck until he almost takes the breath out of me.   I’m pretty sure I will take this to my grave as one of my favorite memories.

I’m excited about the games like this that will develop with James. It will be our own thing, of course, but whatever he demands that means snuggles and giggles, I will let him be the boss of me.

James

For your kids, I will happily bend my will – because they are their own unique persons…and because they are yours.

Thank you for being my people. Thank you for being my family.

I love you all.

Worry less

It was our second date and we’d decided on dinner at a local pub. We were aiming for casual, a place we could wear jeans and not worry too much about impressing each other. We wanted good food and the football game on the TV. We wanted to feel comfortable, because the whole point in dating is to get to know each other, to see what you have in common, and even (*gasp*) to have a little fun.

“You can’t take him there,” they said. “That’s a place you take a co-worker you only kind of like.”

“You can’t take him there,” they said. “That place is too casual.”

They suggested a restaurant down the road from the pub, a fancier place that was more dimly lit with a more interesting menu. “It’s better for a date,” they said.

My friends, they meant well. They consistently want the best for me, and that appears to be true in even the places that I eat. They wanted me to have a good date, which means they wanted to make sure I had a good time, that I was treated well, that I put my best foot forward.

And all those things happened…at the pub.

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I believe deeply in the good that comes when you live your life in a community of people who love you and have your back. I believe deeply that it’s one of the ways that God loves us and has our backs.

But, one of the problems of community is that their voices often get loud. They often get so loud you can hear them even when they’re not around.

Most of the time, believe me, this is good. Because they’re the voices that echo Jesus, the ones that remind you that God’s business is making good out of bad, or that God is faithful even when we are not, that rest is okay. They’re the voices that encourage you to keep going even when you feel wonky and scared and vulnerable. They’re the voices that will shut up and listen when they know you already know all the things they want to tell you.

Most of the time, their input and suggestions and counsel are worth heeding because they’re people who love you and have your back.

Sometimes though, even when your community loves you and has your back and wants only for you to have a good date, the voice that matters is your own.

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I knew he was coming home from the beach and would be casually dressed. I knew that I was most comfortable in a place I could wear my favorite jeans, hole in the knee and all. I knew that the food was good, and we’d both be cool watching the pre-season football game if the conversation lulled. And I knew, quite frankly, that I just wanted to go to the pub.

Because here’s the thing, I’m thirty now. I’ve been dating for more than a decade. I’ve been on good dates and bad dates, and the mediocre dates that fall in between. I’ve worried for so long about impressing the guy that I’ve debated about what to wear for more hours than were necessary, and I’ve remained silent when I should have spoken up about things that concerned me, and I’ve not at all been relaxed in the whole dating process.

I was talking to Nickie about this the other day, about how dating is feeling much too much like work and a lot less like fun, and I realized that I have been doing it wrong for so long, and she said, “I say poo poo on what any of us think, though. Do what you want and what makes you comfortable. It’s your life and your relationship, and you live your life well.”

See? Good voices. Voices that love you and have your back.

She’s right, of course. I mean, jury’s still out on the “living your life well” bit, but I don’t think I’m doing a terrible job. However, I have been doing a terrible job of dating, and it is my life, and it is time to do what I want. Or at least, it’s time to start really giving some weight to what I want.

I worry too much though, that is my down fall. I am, more often than not, totally anxiety-ridden. I don’t know what it’s like to be totally relaxed, and I’m not sure I have ever known. When I was a kid I worried about always being the new kid, if I was ever going to fit in, if I was ever going to have real friends who’d hang on even if we had to move again. And so I worried about my clothes and my interests and my speech, because I worried all the time about being liked.

And old habits die hard.

But, I’m learning to put that to death, to be new, to worry less. It’s hard but good work, and I like the person this work is shaping me into. I like the way it’s deepening my relationship with God, and the way it’s giving my faith some real maturity. And I like the ways that my friends are responding to this me that is more comfortable in my skin, when that skin is less polished and a little raw.

So, this is my new mantra: Worry less. And with that, it is a challenge to myself in all the best ways to give myself a little credit, to extend myself a little grace, to trust the person that is exactly who God created me to be.

And it is a challenge to my community, to my friends, to love me even when I may not listen to them and may do my own thing.

Sometimes, believe it or not, worrying less is exactly the right thing.

 

Text message tears

Reconciling text messageSometimes a message like this, from the right person, is enough to reduce you to a pile of tears. Because you miss the person who sent it to you, and because you’ve missed them for more than a year, and because you haven’t known how to reach out yourself, and the person just made the hard first-step.  And because you’re so sure that God is in every word, emoticon, and exclamation mark that sets up coffee the next time she’s in town.  And because that’s a coffee date you’ve been waiting to have, and you know it’s one you will keep.

And because somehow, it all feels like grace.

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Last week, I sent an email to one of my friends from Bible study, one with whom I’m emailing on the regular to talk through the gratitude lists we’re making, and I told her that I’m grateful that God is in the business of reconciliation.

Somewhere in the last year, in the leaving, I lost sight of that.

Or maybe a better way to say it is that I lost sight of the ways that God was moving and working in the lives of the people who made up the other half of my relationships.  I was guilty of disbelieving them, of casting them in the roles of Pharisee – people who were religiously trained, but weren’t living it well.  I was guilty of assuming the worst, shutting my eyes to the possibility that God was making them new too.  I was guilty of thinking them “wrong,” sure that they would never be first-step makers, sure that I would have to fall on my sword if I wanted things to be “okay” again.

And I think I’m generally guilty of taking on the whole responsibility of the making sure things are okay between me and the people in my life – forgetting that they are doing work too, forgetting that God is in fact leading both us.

And I’m so glad for the way that He leads.  Because sometimes it means you receive a text, and an invitation to coffee, and things are righted just that quick.

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I was reminded of God’s business of reconciliation again in church this morning when we read the latter part of 2 Corinthians 5. This is the part of Paul’s epistle that reminds us that we’re new creations, and we’re new creations because Christ reconciled us to God, and our charge now, in order to demonstrate this kind of grace that God showed us, is to reconcile with each other.

 And this is what I love about God and church and community – it always comes back to grace.

God gives us grace, and we give each other grace, and it’s this big, beautiful cyclical thing that means you might cry when you get an out-of-the-blue text message.

When my friend sent the text message, she wasn’t just making plans for a coffee date; she was making the first hard step to restore our relationship. And she was showing me that she is in Christ, a new creation, who can forgive that there hasn’t been contact in over a year and reach out in kindness.  She was showing me grace.

Because it always comes back to grace.

Grace upon grace, even.

Tabula rasa

I figure in about 4 months, when I collect my diploma and leave behind the life of a full-time student, I’m going to have to admit that I am…a grown-up.  So, in an effort to embrace this reality, I’m starting the WordPress blog and leaving behing the blog that I kept as a student.  Everything about my life in the next few months is going to be new, and I think because I’m a neurotic, sort-it-out-in-writing kind of a person that this new blog can function as a sort of new slate upon which I can sort out my adult life.  In advance, I thank you for walking the journey with me!

This is my tabula rasa.